You’re probably using Facebook wrong. But don’t feel bad — so is practically everyone else. That might be why there are so many articles out there talking about how Facebook is ruining our lives. An unconfigured Facebook page can be desperately annoying — but there are ways to clean it up.
Why does Facebook suck? There’s the usual bad behavior: vaguebooking, drama, and endless quizzes. Then there’s politics. There’s still over a year left until the US election, but that hasn’t stopped your irritatingly political friends from flooding your page with memes and posts about abortion, gay marriage, immigration, and the minimum wage. If your blood pressure rose just skimming that last sentence, you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the problem: if you don’t have very strong views on these issues, all of these posts are incredibly annoying. If you do have strong views on these issues, at least half of the these posts are still incredibly annoying. And the other half aren’t really telling you anything new.
Then to top it off, Facebook insists on showing you trending topics in the sidebar, which gets dominated by politics and whatever the Kardashians are up to lately. There’s no way to turn it off; and, while Facebook does let you tell it which stories you don’t want to see, this doesn’t appear to actually do anything.
If you find yourself regularly being sucked into long political Facebook arguments with friends-of-friends, you probably need to take control of your Facebook. Ditto if you’re constantly annoyed by celebrity news or friends who can’t function without constantly marinating in sympathy and attention.
We’ve talked about how to clean up your Facebook feed before, and this advice is still good. But there are some techniques that go further, and let you really tune Facebook to do exactly what you want. Today, we’re going to talk about three strategies and tools to make Facebook work for you.
Did you know that Facebook lets you block articles from specific websites? It’s true! One good way to use this is to keep an eye out for articles that annoy you. That means clickbait, politics, the works.
Every time you see one, click on the little gray arrow in the upper right hand corner of the article, and select “Hide All From ____” where “____” is the name of the domain. Most articles come from a small handful of websites. If you block every domain that posts annoying articles, your feed will improve quickly. (Nothing against io9, by the way — this was just the first article that came up on my news feed).
The only thing to keep an eye out for here is that some domains are a mixed bag, and have genuine value to offer, even if they are occasionally annoying. In those cases, you’re probably better off letting the domain stay and using some of the more sophisticated strategies that we’ll talk about in a moment.
This one may seem basic, but a lot of people overlook it. Unfriending people can be awkward, even if they bug you. The good news is that Facebook is aware of this, and offers a feature calling “Unfollowing” which lets you remain friends publicly, but prevents their posts from showing up on your feed. This feature is incredibly powerful for making Facebook less irritating.
Again, keep an eye out for annoying posts, and unfollow liberally. Likely, a small fraction of your friends list is contributing 90% of the garbage. That guy you met twice who posts three times a day about his Kickstarter? Out. Your aunt who just discovered cat memes? Gone. Your college roommate who joined the Peace Corps and won’t shut up about it? Finished.
Be petty here. Unfollow your ex. Unfollow your relatives. Unfollow that guy who just makes you feel bad because he’s more successful than you are. Social media is intended to work for you. If something’s not making you happy, you aren’t obligated to look at it.
Use a Browser Extension
One recent thing I discovered is that you can use a browser extension called FB Purity to fine-tune Facebook in entirely new ways.
For example: the “trending topics” box. While the box has a button to let you restrict it to specific topics (like sports, or science and technology), this isn’t a global setting. It’ll go back to normal when you reset your browser. FB Purity lets you eliminate the entire box. No more Donald Trump, and no more Kardashians.
It isn’t just that, either. You can eliminate whole classes of posts you don’t want to see, like invitations to play social games or friends’ posts to other peoples’ walls. It’s entirely up to you. You can even get really fine-tuned, and block posts by specific keywords. I’m sure you can think of a few topics you never want to hear about again.
This is a really versatile plugin, and you can spend a long-time fine-tuning all the options. It even lets you rank posts in sequential order, instead of letting Facebook guess what you most want to see. This fixes another common complaint about the site.
FB Purity is basically an intelligent filter that lets you get rid of anything you don’t like. It’s also updated frequently to adapt to changes to Facebook’s UI and features. My only complaint is that the graphic design clashes with Facebook a little, and its interface can be hard to navigate.
How Facebook Should Be
With these tools at your disposal, there’s very little reason to get annoyed at Facebook ever again. Facebook doesn’t have to be irritating — it can be a legitimate way to keep up with friends and talk about interesting things, without getting bogged down in toxic cultural runoff and attention-seeking behavior.
What do you think? Did we miss any great tips? How is Facebook working for you? Let us know in the comments.